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Wonderful Life

Stephen Jay Gould (Author)

High in the Canadian Rockies is a small limestone quarry formed 530 million years ago. Called the Burgess Shale, it holds the remains of an ancient sea where dozens of strange creatures lived - a forgotten corner of evolution preserved in incredible detail. In this book Stephen Jay Gould explores what the Burgess Shale might tell us about evolution and the nature of history.

The Darwinian theory of evolution is a well-known, well-explored area. But there is one aspect of human life which this theory of evolution fails to account for: chance. Using the brilliantly preserved fossil fauna of the Burgess Shale as his case study, Gould argues that chance was in fact one of the decisive factors in the evolution of life on this planet, and that, with a flip of coin, everything could have been very different indeed.

Four Fields

Tim Dee (Author)

In his first book since the acclaimed The Running Sky Tim Dee tells the story of four green fields. Four fields spread around the world: their grasses, their hedges, their birds, their skies, and their natural and human histories. Four real fields – walkable, mappable, man-made, mowable and knowable, but also secretive, mysterious, wild, contested and changing. Four fields – the oldest and simplest and truest measure of what a man needs in life – looked at, thought about, worked in, lived with, written.

Dee’s four fields, which he has known for more than twenty years, are the fen field at the bottom of his Cambridgeshire garden, a field in southern Zambia, a prairie field in Little Bighorn, Montana, USA, and a grass meadow in the exclusion zone at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Meditating on these four fields, Dee makes us look anew at where we live and how. He argues that we must attend to what we have made of the wild, to look at and think about the way we have messed things up but also to notice how we have kept going alongside nature, to listen to the conversation we have had with grass and fields.

Four Fields is a profound, lyrical book by one of Britain’s very best writers about nature.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize

The Ash and The Beech

Richard Mabey (Author)

From ash die-back to the Great Storm of 1987 to Dutch elm disease, our much-loved woodlands seem to be under constant threat from a procession of natural challenges. Just when we need trees most, to help combat global warming and to provide places of retreat for us and our wildlife, they seem at greatest peril. But these dangers force us to reconsider the narrative we construct about trees and the roles we press on them.

In this now classic book, Richard Mabey looks at how, for more than a thousand years, we have appropriated and humanised trees, turning them into arboreal pets, status symbols, expressions of fashionable beauty - anything rather than allow them lives of their own. And in the poetic and provocative style he has made his signature, Mabey argues that respecting trees' independence and ancient powers of survival may be the wisest response to their current crises.

Originally published with the title Beechcombings, this updated edition includes a new foreword and afterword by the author.

Serving the Reich

Philip Ball (Author)

Serving the Reich tells the story of physics under Hitler. While some scientists tried to create an Aryan physics that excluded any ‘Jewish ideas’, many others made compromises and concessions as they continued to work under the Nazi regime. Among them were world-renowned physicists Max Planck, Peter Debye and Werner Heisenberg.

After the war most scientists in Germany maintained they had been apolitical or even resisted the regime: Debye claimed that he had gone to America in 1940 to escape Nazi interference in his research; Heisenberg and others argued that they had deliberately delayed production of the atomic bomb.

In a gripping exploration of moral choices under a totalitarian regime, here are human dilemmas, failures to take responsibility and three lives caught between the idealistic goals of science and a tyrannical ideology.

The Inflationary Universe

Alan H Guth (Author)

This classic Big Bang text neatly describes what happened after the bang. Yet, until recently, particle physicists and cosmologists were stuck on many questions that the Big Bang Theory still couldn't answer, primarily: If matter can neither be created nor destroyed, how could so much matter arise from nothing at all? Alan Guth's Inflationary Universe Theory answers these vexing questions. When NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer satellite measured the non-uniformities of the cosmic background radiation for the first time in 1992, the patterns agreed exquisitely with the theory's predictions.

Against Empathy

Paul Bloom (Author)

In a divided world, empathy is not the solution, it is the problem.

We think of empathy – the ability to feel the suffering of others for ourselves – as the ultimate source of all good behaviour. But while it inspires care and protection in personal relationships, it has the opposite effect in the wider world. As the latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows, we feel empathy most for those we find attractive and who seem similar to us and not at all for those who are different, distant or anonymous. Empathy therefore biases us in favour of individuals we know while numbing us to the plight of thousands. Guiding us expertly through the experiments, case studies and arguments on all sides, Paul Bloom ultimately shows that some of our worst decisions – in charity, child-raising, criminal justice, climate change and war – are motivated by this wolf in sheep's clothing.

Brilliantly argued, urgent and humane, Against Empathy overturns widely held assumptions to reveal one of the most profound yet overlooked sources of human conflict.

Irresistible

Adam Alter (Author)

'Fascinating' Malcolm Gladwell
'Your sanity will thank you for reading it' Oliver Burkeman

Our world is filled with addictive experiences, from social media and messaging to rolling news and video streaming.

They affect our ability to relax, develop relationships and achieve meaningful goals.

Psychologist Adam Alter explains why we can't stop scrolling, clicking and watching.

And offers practical advice for using technology differently – and leading a happier life.

'Brilliant. Irresistible offers...much-needed solutions'
Susan Cain, author of Quiet

'Essential reading... Regain control of your time, finances and relationships'
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

'With great clarity...Irresistible digs down into exactly how technology has us hooked'
The Times

The Wolf Pit

Will Cohu (Author)

In 1966 Will Cohu's grandparents moved to Bramble Carr, a remote cottage on the Yorkshire moors. The summers and winters he spent there were full of freedom and light; only after childhood ended was he aware of the price the adults had paid for life in this most romantic of settings.


Navigating family tensions and the trials of growing up, Will describes the close-knit community of North Yorkshire and his family's place within it: the shepherd probing the head-high snowdrifts for his flock; the pub landlord obsessed with military uniforms; the village doctor lost in his love for the purple moorland; Will's glamorous RAF parents; and, at the centre of the story, his beloved but enigmatic grandparents.

The Wolf Pit is an enquiring love letter from Will Cohu to his family, and to a changing rural England that is passionate, frightening and funny.

Headhunters

Ben Shephard (Author)

How did the human brain evolve? Why did it evolve as it did? What is man’s place in evolution? In the final decades of the nineteenth century, these questions began to occupy scientists. With Darwin’s theory of evolution now accepted, modern neuroscience began.

Headhunters traces the intellectual journey of four men who met at Cambridge in the 1890s and whose lives interlinked for the next three decades – William Rivers, Grafton Elliot Smith, Charles Myers and William McDougall. It follows their voyages of discovery, taking the reader from anthropological field studies in Melanesia and archaeological excavations in Egypt to the psychiatric wards of the First World War. Their work ranged across fields that today carry a variety of labels – neurology, psychology, psychiatry, zoology – but which for these men formed part of the same enquiry: the search for a science of the mind.

A narrative-driven work of intellectual history and a compelling biographical study, Headhunters explores the big ideas about the brain, the nervous system and man’s place in history. In the process the book reveals how science actually works – the passions, the irrational flashes, the moments of insight; the big ideas that work – and the big ideas that turn out to be wrong. Acclaimed historian Ben Shephard takes the reader on an extraordinary intellectual journey – and arrives at some very modern destinations.

The Hunt for the Golden Mole

Richard Girling (Author)

This story is a quest for an animal so rare that a sighting has never been recorded.

The Somali golden mole was first described in 1964, but the sole evidence for its existence is a tiny fragment of jawbone found in an owl pellet. Intrigued by this elusive creature, and what it can tell us about extinction and survival, Richard Girling embarks on a hunt to find the animal and its discoverer - an Italian professor who he thinks might still be alive...

Richard's journey comes at a time when one species - our own - is having to reconsider its relationship with every other. He delves into the history of exploration and cataloguing and the tall tales of the great hunters, traces the development of the conservation movement and addresses central issues of extinction and biodiversity.

Cold Blood

Richard Kerridge (Author)

As a boy, Richard Kerridge loved to encounter wild creatures and catch them for his back-garden zoo. In a country without many large animals, newts caught his attention first of all, as the nearest he could get to the African wildlife he watched on television. There were Smooth Newts, mottled like the fighter planes in the comics he read, and the longed-for Great Crested Newt, with its huge golden eye.

The gardens of Richard and his reptile-crazed friends filled up with old bath tubs containing lizards, toads, Marsh Frogs, newts, Grass Snakes and, once, an Adder. Besides capturing them, he wanted to understand them. What might it be like to be cold blooded, to sleep through the winter, to shed your skin and taste wafting chemicals on your tongue? Richard has continued to ask these questions during a lifetime of fascinated study.

Part natural-history guide to these animals, part passionate nature writing, and part personal story, Cold Blood is an original and perceptive memoir about our relationship with nature. Through close observation, it shows how even the suburbs can seem wild when we get close to these thrilling, weird and uncanny animals.

Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation

Olivia Judson (Author)

If you have ever wondered why women always bite your head off or why one guy gets all the girls, if you have ever pondered why some men bring you balloons while others leave you their genitals, then Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation is the book for you. It explains all this and much more. It discloses the best time to have a sex change, how to have a virgin birth, when to seduce your sisters or eat your lover. Quirky and brilliant, it takes as its starting point all creatures great and small worried about their bizarre sex lives, and the letters they write to the wise Dr Tatiana, the only agony aunt in all creation with a prodigious knowledge of both natural history and evolutionary biology.

The Making Of Memory

Steven Rose (Author)

Steven Rose's The Making of Memory is about just that, in both its senses: the biological processes by which we humans - and other animals - learn and remember, and how researchers can explore these mechanisms. But it is also about much more.

When the first edition of this fascinating book won the Science book Prize in 1993, the judges described it as 'a riveting read...a first-hand account by a practicing scientist working at the forefront of medical research and Rose does not duck the issues which that raises.'

Now ten years on, research has itself moved forward, and Rose has taken the opportunity to fully revise the book. But this is more than mere revision. Where ten years ago he argued the case for research on memory because it is the most extraordinary of human attributes, Rose's own research has now opened the doors to a potential new treatment for Alzheimer's Disease undreamed of a decade ago, and in an entirely new chapter he describes how this potential breakthrough has occurred.

The Naked Woman

Desmond Morris (Author)

The human female form is the brilliant end-point of millions of years of evolution, loaded with amazing adjustments and subtle refinements. It is the most remarkable organism on the planet. At different times and in different places, human societies have tried to improve on nature, modifying and embellishing the female form in a thousand different ways. In this new study, people-watcher Desmond Morris turns his skill and attention to the female form and takes the reader on a guided tour 'from head to toe'. Highlighting the evolutionary functions of biological features that all women share, Morris explores the enhancements and constraints that human societies have developed in the quest for control and perfection of the female form. Written from a zoologist's perspective and packed full of scientific fact, fascinating anecdote and thought-provoking conclusions, The Naked Woman builds on Desmond Morris's unrivalled experience as an observer of the human animal.

Guns, Germs And Steel

Jared Diamond (Author)

'A book of big questions, and big answers' Yuval Noah Harari, bestselling author of Sapiens

WITH A NEW AFTERWORD FROM THE AUTHOR

Why has human history unfolded so differently across the globe?

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Jared Diamond puts the case that geography and biogeography, not race, moulded the contrasting fates of Europeans, Asians, Native Americans, sub-Saharan Africans, and aboriginal Australians.

An ambitious synthesis of history, biology, ecology and linguistics, Guns, Germs and Steel remains a ground-breaking and humane work of popular science.

Six Degrees

Duncan Watts (Author)

'Six degrees of separation' is a cliche, as is 'it's a small world', both cliches of the language and cliches of everyday experience. But it's also an intriguing idea with a long history and some surprising implications. We all live in tightly bonded social networks, yet linked to vast numbers of people more closely than we sometimes think. Scientists have begun to apply insights from the theoretical study of networks to understand forms as superficially different as social networks and electrical networks, computer networks and economic networks, and to show how common principles underlie them all.


Duncan J. Watts explores the science of networks and its implications, ranging from the Dutch tulipmania of the seventeenth century, the success of Harry Potter, the impact of September 11th on Manhattan, to the structure of the world wide web.

The Mating Mind

Geoffrey Miller (Author)

Many aspects of the human mind remain mysterious. While Darwinian natural selection can explain the evolution of most life on earth, it has never seemed fully adequate to explain the aspects of our minds that seem most uniquely and profoundly human - art, morality, consciousness, creativity and language. Yet these aspects of human nature need not remain evolutionary mysteries.

Until fairly recently most biologists have ignored or rejected Darwin's claims for the other great force of evolution - sexual selection through mate choice, which favours traits simply because they prove attractive to the opposite sex. But over recent years biologists have taken up Darwin's insights into how the reproduction of the sexiest is as much a focus of evolution as the survival of the fittest.

Witty, powerfully-argued and continually thought-provoking, Miller's cascade of ideas bears comparison with such critical books as Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene and Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct. It is a landmark in our understanding of our own species.

Rocket Dreams

Marina Benjamin (Author)

From the first landings on the moon to the implications of our cyber worlds, this unusual and intriguing book takes a provocative look at our fascination with space. Rocket Dreams is a fast-moving, fact-filled study of how all the dreams that went in to moonflight in the '60s have found new homes and mutated into new fascination with space. It is about our unquenchable desire to reach out to other worlds, physical and imaginative. From the Apollo astronauts to the military origins of the internet, and the whole phenomenon of 'virtual communities', it reveals how the ideals and longings pinned on cyberspace have evolved directly from those of the space age. Space dreams have been transformed into screen dreams, but the longing for communication with 'the other' lies at the heart of both.

Monkeyluv

Robert M Sapolsky (Author)

Described by Oliver Sacks as 'one of the best scientist-writers of our time', Robert M. Sapolsky here presents the human animal in all its quirkiness and diversity.

In these remarkable essays, Sapolsky once again deploys his compassion and insights into the human condition to tell us who, why and how we are. Monkeyluv touches on themes such as sexuality, aggression, love, parenting, religion, ageing, and mental illness. He ponders such topics as our need to seek out beauty; why our preferences in food become fixed; why we are sexually attracted to one another; why Alzheimer's disease tends to be a post-menopausal phenomenon; and why grandmothers buying groceries for their grandchildren are part of nature's Darwinian logic.

Queen Of The Elephants

Mark Shand (Author)

Mark Shand trekked 300 miles across East Benghal and Assam on the back of an elephant with Parbato Barua, the foremost and only female elephant trainer in all India. This book describes the experiences shared during this remarkable journey - joining a government 'elephant squad' together with local villagers to chase a band of wild elephants off a tea estate, and making a stop at Parbati's ancestral home, now a virtual shrine to her father's lifelong work with elephants. The importance of this ancient knowledge becomes clear: if not preserved, the Asian elephant stands an even greater chance of disappearing altogether.

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